Vanuatu and Santo 2011

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    Posted: 05 Jul 2011 at 5:04pm
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A recent trip to Vanuatu was a welcome respite from the cold, wet and windy New Zealand winter. Thanks to some very efficient organisation from our travel consultant, Nicole, Marie and I spent a week in 28-30 degree temperatures with an ocean temperature to match.

The Havannah Resort

Our first port of call was the Havannah resort in Havannah harbour, about 25 minutes drive from Port Vila. The Havannah resort is simply stunningly good. The food is excellent and the staff are friendly and helpful. The resort is run by two kiwis, Tish and Owen and they will make you very welcome.

Four blues and two mahimahi

In conjunction with the resort, Richard, a local Ni-Van runs a 7.4m HT Lazercraft for light and medium tackle gamefishing and one of the first jobs was to meet Richard and organise the adventure for the following day.

Havannah resort fishing vanuatu

We were up early and the lures were in just before sun-up. We had our first bite within minutes and as Ian the crewman and I frantically got the rest of the gear in, the water behind the boat was whipped to foam by an energetic blue marlin of 100+ kilos.

Marie did a fine job  - stand-up TLD50 on a Kilwell live-fibre - &  had it to the boat in about 20 minutes. Unfortunately the fish still had plenty of gas in the tank and managed to win the tussle with Ian on the leader to cut itself off neatly on the port trim-tab. 1/0 to the marlin.

For the next few hours we enjoyed the company of 3 more feisty blues hooking themselves and jumping all over the cobalt blue 29.5 degree ocean. Two jumped themselves off in spectacular fashion and another jumped and landed on the line.

Four shots on blue marlin in one day is good fishing anywhere and while we didn't 'catch' any of our marlin as such, we did have the pleasure of the best parts of any fishing action, the strike, the hook-up and the frenetic, adrenalin-pumping frenzy that followed.

We needed some fish for dinner so it was over to the nearest FAD and I dropped a jig hooking up on the first drop - a small football-sized yellowfin of 3-4kg. Richard cut the belly strips into stripbaits and these were a slow trolled round the FAD on a small recurve hook.

Bingo and we had two nice mahi in the bin within about 10 minutes. Richard has plenty of experience and worked as crew for Bruce Smith on the New Zealand Gameboat 'Striker' for a couple of seasons so he's learnt from one of the best in the business. He’ll entertain you with wonderful stories about the local history and culture while you’re waiting for that next bite!

Dinner that night was sensational. Fresh mahimahi, superbly cooked in the most idyllic of settings after a great day on the water. It just doesn't get better than that and the Havannah Resort is on our list for a return visit.

Deco Dive – Santo

We then flew to Santo for three days and stayed with Ben and Kim at Deco Stop in Luganville. This part of the holiday was to explore some of the special attractions that Santo offered.

Ben and Kim were excellent hosts and we enjoyed a couple of sessions on the water and while that was with limited success the water was a very pleasant 29 degrees along with the air temperature.

The fishing in close to Santo can be variable but sailfish, mahimahi, wahoo and YFT are all species that frequent the area. The water drops off to heady depths close to the island and in a few minutes from terra firma you can be fishing in cobalt blue water, hundreds of metres deep.You’ll find GT’s on some of the reefs and drop-offs in closer and dogtooth on many of the drop-offs and numerous seamounts.

There’s infrastructure for fishing in Santo itself revolves mainly around a fleet of smaller boats and only larger charter boat was for sale when we were there. It would have been good to have more time on the water as there is huge potential in the area and fair to say that most days you can expect to catch something reasonable like Mahi, Doggies, GT's or yellowfin. I caught up with James Brown who'd been working on Island Passage and they'd been running trips out of Santo and there's certainly some good fishing to be had in the area.

Santo is certainly worth the visit for the diving (Coolidge, Million dollar point and some pristine coral reefs) and the other amazing places like the blue holes and idyllic places like champagne beach.

The diving is certainly world class and we had lunch with a couple who are dive guides on the SS Coolidge, Tim and Jenny Ritchie and they had a number of amazing stories to tell about the wreck, and it's vibrant history. The keel of the Coolidge is at 70m but there are plenty of options to explore other interesting areas of the Coolidge with professional guides.

And you don't necessarily need to be a scuba diver to enjoy the diving. Places like million dollar point are certainly worth snorkelling/freediving (we had 25m vis) and some of the best coral reefs are fine on snorkel too.

Aore Island

We had an afternoon and evening at Aore island resort which is just across the channel from Luganville on Santo and were extremely impressed with the immaculate gardens and the resort generally. There’s plenty to do or you can just kick back and enjoy the sun, beautiful clear water and relax. A week here would be perfect in the NZ winter!

The Grand Hotel – Port Vila

We then travelled back to Vila for a look around and two nights at the Grand Hotel. In the process of being done up, central to markets, shops etc. It’s a very handy location and has it’s own small casino if you fancy your luck.

Vila is an interesting place to spend a day or two and just take in the history and enjoy the legacy of the multicultural influences that linger after some fascinating history.

The food market is about 5 minutes walk from The Grand and is buzzing from the wee small hours. There's a wide range of places to eat and just about every type of food you can imagine. 

In the evenings a trip to the waterfront bar which is a local instituion is always guaranteed to provide entertainment in one form or another. A great place to sit back, enjoy a couple of locally brewed 'Tusker' beers and cruise into the evening, island style.

the Grand Hotel and Casino Vanuatu

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Titahi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 3:59pm
Titahi View Drop Down

Joined: 09 Aug 2009
Location: Mount sinai
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Nice report Grunta, It certainly is a beautiful place, and I love Pidgeon English. Heres a sign that was on the back of the toilet door up at the hospital..... I couldnt resist taking a snap, cause I sure as hell wouldnt have been able to convey to my mates how funny pidgeon is..... I have interptered the "attention long evriwan" as PAY ATTAENTION

"I love standing by the ocean and just knowing what its for"
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Tonto2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jul 2011 at 4:54pm
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We are off mid August, and can't waitTongue
slowly going where everyone else has already been
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Kezza Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jul 2011 at 8:22pm
Kezza View Drop Down

Joined: 04 Dec 2005
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Sweet write up the Grunta....I really dig the Vanuatu groove....must get back there sooner rather than later.

The pigeon is heaps good:

Mix-master blong jesus christ = helicopter
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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote Finatic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jul 2011 at 11:50am
Finatic View Drop Down

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Sounds like an amazing place Grant.

One of the guys at work has been diving the Coolidge a few times recently.

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Post Options Post Options   Likes (0) Likes(0)   Quote carlostairua Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jul 2011 at 3:41pm
carlostairua View Drop Down
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Wicked Grunta, cool pics, cool place. Gotta get back
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